Kingston Council are continuing to run a number of local schemes which will help protect vulnerable residents from fuel poverty this winter. However, the Liberal Democrat administration have raised concerns that central Government is endangering local people by failing to properly address the wider causes of rocketing fuel bills, pensioner poverty, and energy inefficiency in homes.
Penny Shelton, Kingston’s Executive Member for Housing said: “We are doing all we can at a local level to provide financial assistance and practical help to keep local homes warm. But I fear our efforts are being stifled by Government’s threat of a 47% cut to its Warm Front energy efficiency programme and its deafening silence over rocketing fuel prices.
She explained: “Central Government has not taken the tough action needed on energy suppliers when they fail to pass down lower wholesale prices to consumers in the form of reduced bills. In fact, there has been a doubling of fuel prices since 2002. The most vulnerable members of our community are being badly let down by Government Ministers failing to address this scandal.
“I support the proposed House of Commons Early Day Motion calling for an official investigation into the dominance and unfair pricing practices of “the big six” energy suppliers in the UK by the Competition Commission.”
The local authority’s Lead Member for Health and Adult Community Services, Cllr Rolson Davies added: “In March this year, the Labour Government refused to support a Liberal Democrat sponsored bill which would have eradicated fuel poverty nationally. Now the Department of Energy and Climate Changes have revealed that one in four households in the UK struggle to afford heat and electricity.
“It is a national disgrace that so many elderly, disabled and vulnerable people will suffer this winter as a consequence of the Labour’s plain ambivalence to rocketing energy prices, energy inefficiency and pensioner poverty.”
This year, Kingston Council will continue funding the ‘Coldbuster scheme’ which installs energy efficient heating and insulation measures into local housing, and will also spend a recently won £975,000 grant on improving energy efficiency in council properties. In addition, Creative Environmental Network, a Partner of the Council, provides home visits to Kingston’s most vulnerable residents, face to face assessments of need, referrals to grant schemes and other complementary services such as benefit entitlement checks.